Rosenworcel: Pressure Is on for More, and More Efficient, Spectrum
Promotes simplicity, fairness, balance, and public safety in auctions, suggests giving government share in proceeds from auctions of their spectrum
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/13/2012 1:15:00 PM
The other part of that message was how to relieve that pressure for spectrum. Those included the upcoming incentive auctions of commercial spectrum as well as incentivizing government spectrum users to give up or share some of their spectrum by letting them share in the re-auction proceeds, as commercial broadcasters have an opportunity to do. She said all those auctions should be on a timeline, adding: "Speed matters."
Rosenworcel planned to tell her audience that it would take innovation in a variety of forms to get the job done, including smart antennas, frequency-agile receivers, changes in network deployment, including the promise of small cells. It will take creative spectrum policy, she said, including the most obvious example -- the FCC's upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, which she said must be guided by four principles: simplicity, fairness, balance and public safety.
She said simplicity will be crucial to generating interest from broadcasters. In that she was echoing the sentiments of Gary Epstein, senior adviser and co-lead of the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force, who has said that the goal is to have the complexity "under the hood."
Fairness, she said, includes minimizing viewer and broadcaster disruptions for those TV stations repacked into smaller space to make room for wireless broadband. "At the same time, we ask that broadcasters make a fair assessment of the opportunities that this auction provides the industry."
The speech came the same day that Preston Padden, former broadcast executive and currently senior fellow at the Silicon Flatirons Center in Colorado, announced a new coalition of broadcasters who might be willing to sell so long as the auction is set up correctly.
She suggested there were reasons why some broadcasters should be willing to consider giving up spectrum, which does not necessarily mean getting out of the business. "By offering incentives to share channels and incentives to relocate from the UHF to VHF band," she said, "this auction can mean new resources for broadcasters to develop new programming and deploy new services. Let us also be creative here -- and consider how this process can yield new models for station ownership, new funding sources for local content, and new ways to use technology to make efficient use of our airwaves."
Some broadcasters, pointing to their one-to-many architecture, have pointed out they could provide a way to offload cellular traffic during peak periods, for example.
Balance includes understanding that interference protections will affect how much spectrum will be available for auction, and how much revenue can be raised, she said. While the FCC initially targeted 120 MHz, it is no longer talking exact figures.
Public safety is an issue Rosenworcel has been intimately involved with. As a top telecom adviser to the Senate Commerce Committee, she worked with chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on the legislation establishing the auctions, part of whose proceeds go toward building and maintaining an interoperable broadband emergency communications network. "We must not forget that the success of these auctions requires meeting this funding objective -- and delivering on our promise to America's first responders," she said.
As to getting spectrum back from federal users, Rosenworcel said that there needed to be a combination of reclamation and sharing, but that between calls for sticking with the reclamation model and others for widespread sharing, both of which she said were worth exploring for the "long haul," there needs to be a short-term approach that will make repurposing easier and expedite sharing. That would be to provide financial rewards to agencies to use spectrum more efficiently.
"What if they were able to reclaim a portion of the revenue from the subsequent re-auction of their airwaves? Would they make new choices about their missions and the resources they need to accomplish them? I think so. I believe this is an idea worth exploring."
Rosenworcel also said the public deserved an accounting by the FCC of the resiliency of its network infrastructure. "By choosing wireless and IP networks, we are choosing to go without the independent electrical source that traditionally powered copper plant. I do not believe we should sacrifice safety in the process," she said.
"[T]he time to have this conversation is now. Before we have another rash of headlines like we just saw: â€˜Post-Sandy Wireless Outages Add Insult to Injury' and 'Sandy Exposes Gaps in Wireless System During Emergency.' We need to make progress before the next storm hits, the next disaster devastates, and the next network-related outage leaves us vulnerable again."
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